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Going beyond 100% ethical gold

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A Chopard watch in Fairmined yellow gold.

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Chopard's Happy Palm in Fairmined yellow gold.

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High Horology LUC Full Strike timepiece in Fairmined Gold.

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Chopard Green Carpet in Fairmined white gold.

CHOPARD wants gold-mine operators to be more mindful of the environment and the welfare of their workers.

To persuade them to do that, the Swiss luxury watch and jewellery company announced last month that it would use only ethical gold - gold acquired from responsible sources that meet global best practice environmental and social standards - to make its products.

The move will narrow Chopard's choice to two sources of gold for its jewellery and watches: artisanal freshly mined gold from small-scale mines participating in the Swiss Better Gold Association, Fairmined and Fairtrade schemes; and RJC Chain of Custody gold, through Chopard's partnership with RJC-certified refineries.

Though it's not spelt out, it's understood that Chopard hopes that others in the jewellery and watch trade will also follow its example. Together, they have a powerful influence on gold supply. Jewellery and watches account for over half of the global demand for gold.

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Chopard's more immediate vision "is to increase, as much as it possibly can, the proportion of artisanal gold the maison buys as it becomes more available on the market". Chopard is already the biggest customer for Fairmined gold.

"It is a bold commitment, but one that we must pursue if we are to make a difference to the lives of people who make our business possible," says Karl Scheufele, Chopard's co-president.

Chopard's commitment to 100 per cent ethical gold isn't a sudden act of enlightenment. As a family business, sustainability has alway been one of its core values - and going fully ethical gold is the culmination of a vision started over 30 years ago, according to both Mr Scheufele and his co-president and sister Caroline.

"We have been able to achieve this because more than 30 years ago, we developed a vertically integrated in-house production and invested in mastering all crafts internally, from creating a rare in-house gold foundry as early as 1978, to the skills of high jewellery artisans and expert watchmakers," Mr Scheufele explains.

This means Chopard's watches and jewellery are created and made in-house, putting it "in the unique position to be able to guarantee control of all processes, from manufacturing to final product, therefore controlling the gold used in its products".

This year, Chopard presented a new High Jewellery Green Carpet Collection and the High Horology LUC Full Strike timepiece and the Happy Palm watch. They are all exclusively made from Fairmined gold, the Full Strike in white gold and the Happy Palm in yellow gold.

The brand has already unveiled the LUC Tourbillon QF Fairmined, a gravity-defying watch made of Fairmined gold, in 2014. In the following year, it introduced another Fairmined timepiece, the LUC XPS Fairmined. Then came Chopard's first minute repeater in 2016, the LUC Full Strike, crafted in rose Fairmined gold.

Last year, there was the Ice Cube collection, a jewellery diffusion line crafted in Fairmined gold.

The decision to invest directly in artisanal gold to bring more artisanal gold to the market was taken five years ago. The move, which offered money and technical help together with the Alliance for Responsible Mining, gave Chopard a direct hand in helping a number of small-scale mines to become Fairmined certified. This gave them the licence to charge a premium price for their gold, while ensuring the mines meet strict environmental and social standards.

The gains were spread to their often-forgotten communities on the margins of society, offering them hope and lending them a hand to make a legitimate and dignified living.

Partnering Eco-Age, a sustainability specialist, Chopard rolled out "The Journey to Sustainable Luxury" in the same year in 2013. The purpose was to improve sourcing and create a more responsible supply chain. Gold and emeralds were responsibly sourced.

Chopard's first traceable and sustainably sourced opals came from a family-owned mine in remote Australia.

As part of "The Journey to Sustainable Luxury", the brand continually reviews its supply chains to ensure the procurement of responsibly-sourced precious stones. Thus, with the Rohingya crisis escalating, Chopard in 2017 stopped buying gemstones from Myanmar.

Chopard says it will continue to monitor the situation in Myanmar to ensure its principles on ethical sourcing are not compromised.

The next step in "The Journey to Sustainable Luxury" is to align Chopard's commitments with the United Nation (UN) Global Goals.

Unveiled in 2015 as the Sustainable Development Goals, the Global Goals are a set of 17 interrelated global goals in social and economic development. The UN has set the goals - which include ending poverty, reducing inequity and stopping climate change - to be met by 2030.

Chopard has already started to measure what impact the company - in creating watches and jewellery, employing skilled artisans and sourcing metals and precious stones - has on the Global Goals, in particular which of the goals.

"Following the initial assessment phase, Chopard defined which of the goals they as a business could then have greatest influence upon and which metrics are to be used to trade the companies' contribution to the achievement of the 2030 objectives," the brand says.

Chopard will report on its progress against defined metrics and goals "as part of its ongoing commitment to corporate responsibility and contribution to wider sustainable development issues", it adds.